Windows 8 downgrade rights: 3 things IT needs to know

We wrote recently about how downgrading to Windows 7 may be the best option for businesses that find themselves with new PCs running Windows. But before making those plans, it’s important to properly understand Windows 8 downgrade rights. 

Two months after its release, Windows 8 was being used on 1.72% of machines, according to data from Net Applications. That’s much lower than the 6.2% market share the new operating system’s predecessor, Windows 7, had at the same point in its launch cycle. And it was even lower than the 2.2% of the much-maligned Windows Vista after two months.

In addition, Windows 8’s performance among businesses may have been especially disappointing for Microsoft. Only 8% of the Windows 8 licenses sold in the first month it was available went to businesses, according to market research firm Context.

Due to the OS’s lukewarm reception and mixed reviews from critics, many businesses and consumers will likely try to avoid Windows 8.

For existing computers running older versions of Windows, organizations can still upgrade to Windows 7 — the OS will be sold until at least October of this year, and PC makers will be able to offer new machines with Windows 7 installed for at least another year after that.

Windows 8 downgrade rights

But for organizations that for one reason or another find themselves running machines with unwanted copies of the newest OS installed, there may be another option: exercising Windows 8 downgrade rights.

Here’s what businesses need to know when considering a Windows 8 downgrade, according to a white paper from Rob Horwitz at Directions on Microsoft:

  • Read the fine print — Mistakes can lead to noncompliance with Microsoft’s licensing rules. It’s a good idea for IT to read through the licensing agreements on the products it owns to make sure what their options are.
  • Keep editions consistent — Downgrades must be made to same “edition” of an operating system as the one that’s currently installed. For example, Windows 8 Pro can be downgraded to Windows 7 Professional.
  • Forget about XP — While the clock is ticking for official support for Windows XP, that OS is still popular among many IT departments. However, Windows 8 downgrade rights do not allow organizations to downgrade to XP, only Windows 7 or Vista.